Trade Unionists at London Met under attack

stop-witchhunt-purple-web-300x208“Three members of staff at London Met’s Working Lives Research Institute (WLRI) have been suspended from work in an attack on human rights, trade unions and academic freedom. Professor Steve Jefferys, European employment relations academic, Director of London Met’s Faculty Advanced Institute for Research (FAIR) and head of WLRI, was suspended on Wednesday 20 February for ‘potential gross misconduct’. Five years previously, he had agreed that Jawad Botmeh should have the chance of going forward to be interviewed as a part-time casual administrative worker on a temporary three month contract in WLRI, when Jawad had a criminal record (he had served 13 years on a conspiracy charge).

Jawad Botmeh, after working for five years to the complete satisfaction of all staff and post-graduate students who worked with him, was overwhelmingly elected to the Board of Governors as one of two staff representatives. Two weeks later, on February 7 he was suspended.

Max Watson, a WLRI administrator who is also Chair of the Londonmet UNISON branch, was also suspended on February 7. Max had been recently singled out by the Vice-Chancellor in an all staff email because of UNISON’s opposition to the involvement of Capita in the university’s Business Process Review.

Steve, Jawad and Max have broken no university rules. They have all been entirely open and honest with the university. Professor Jefferys had the authority to make casual appointments. There were no procedures suggesting he should discriminate against former prisoners. Jawad had twice informed the university in writing of his earlier prison sentence and conviction and this evidence is on their files.

The WLRI was set up by Londonmet to undertake ‘academic, applied and socially-committed research and teaching emphasising equality and social justice into all aspects of working lives’. Now is the time for the university to be FAIR to the Institute and its staff.
These suspensions are an attack on the principles of staff rights and representation, on social justice and on academic freedom.

Petition:

We the undersigned protest at the suspensions of elected staff governor Jawad Botmeh, UNISON Chair, Max Watson and Professor Steve Jefferys, Director of WLRI and FAIR, and the harassment and investigations directed against other members of staff in WLRI.While it appears that the investigation relates to Jawad’s previous conviction, this was a matter of record, and had been declared to his managers and HR. I must therefore conclude that the current investigation is designed to intimidate staff and their representatives.

Steve, Jawad and Max have broken no university rules. They have all been entirely open and honest with the university. Professor Jefferys had the authority to make casual appointments. There were no procedures suggesting he should discriminate against former prisoners. Jawad had twice informed the university in writing of his earlier prison sentence and conviction and this evidence is on their files.

The WLRI was set up by Londonmet to undertake ‘academic, applied and socially-committed research and teaching emphasising equality and social justice into all aspects of working lives’. Now is the time for the university to be FAIR to the Institute and its staff.

In our view these suspensions are an attack on the principles of staff rights and representation, on social justice and on academic freedom, and we call on you to lift the suspensions immediately.”

York TUC supports workers under attack and demands the immediate reinstatement of these trade unionists. If you stand with trade unionists defending their rights please sign the petition here.

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